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How Not to Struggle With Negative Experiences

How Not to Struggle With Negative Experiences

Life is hard — way harder than anyone thought it would be. When you were younger, you dreamed of the world being your playground, and you were told that you could do anything and be anyone you wanted. Somehow, though, things haven’t been the smooth sailing you wanted them to be. The world seems to conspire against you, and the last thing you want to hear is “Cheer up!”

Still, there are a couple things you might not notice about your situation. Next time you’re down, maybe the following will provide motivation:

Not everything is bad.

It’s a well accepted fact that bad news makes for sensational television ratings. The fact that something is negative catches a lot more attention than something positive in the same vein, and that’s because it’s easy to see things in a negative light. However, that should not distract you from the bigger picture.

Resist the tunnel vision that results from constant negativity. Remember that even though there’s a lot of really nasty stuff going on, you’re surrounded by some pretty awesome stuff, as well.

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Other people aren’t you.

No one likes being compared to another person. What makes it even worse, if that’s even possible, is when you do it to yourself.

“Sarah and I were in the same graduating class, but she’s a successful business owner and I am not” is essentially mental suicide. Every experience in any person’s life is like rolling a handful of dice. You don’t get the same kind of dice, the same amount of them, or the same number of re-rolls as anyone else because everyone else is not you! Sarah rolled ten sixes, and you only rolled seven.

“Sarah is therefore better than me!” you might say. To be fair, she may have something over you — in that specific instance. However, you still rolled seven sixes! That’s an insanely high number, and you did well rolling it.

Stop comparing yourself to another person and you will realize that you are way more awesome than you give yourself credit for.

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Failure isn’t where the game stops.

So you tried something new, but you didn’t follow through. Frustrated at yourself, you stop trying. As a result, your quality of life goes down immensely. You’ve given up on it, though, because you don’t see the point (since you failed the first time).

Now, look at that same story again. But this time, set the main character as a 5-year-old version of yourself. The outcome is very different, I bet: Your younger self tried to do a thing, failed, and then tried it a different way until he or she figured out how it worked. There were surely many, many failures along the way, but that version of you didn’t see failure as the end of the road.

Now, you’re an adult. The things you are trying are much more complicated than 5-year-old you. However, your behaviour should not change in the slightest — when you fail at something, that’s just more information in your data bank. You know that method does not work, so try another one! And another one after that! Do this until you figure it out.

Giving up is for lesser beings, and you sure aren’t one of those.

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The past is way back there.

There is not a human alive or dead that has never made a choice they regret. Whether it was something so small as a purchase you later decided was a bad idea, or something gargantuan, like the weird tryst you had with the foreign exchange student during Club Rush in sophomore year, it’s there. And you’re treating it like a big, swollen thumb.

Knock that off immediately and you will see just how much your life improves. The most important thing to take away from this idea is that your past is not what makes you who you are. The things that happened to you way back there are just that — in the past. You cannot change what happened to you, but you can definitely change how it affects you in the present and whether it will dictate who you are in the future.

You are alive right now, and right now is all you get. You can’t go back, and the future is coming at its own pace. Don’t worry about the other two points — this one, right now, is the important one.

Everything that happens in your life is valuable.

My personal life’s philosophy can be summed up in one sentence: No experience is a wasted one if it leads to a story you can tell.

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Did you get kicked out of your apartment and have to spend three weeks living in your car while you tried to find a new place? Story time. Did your bank account get stolen by a scammer and used to purchase a yacht? Story time. Did you lose your best friend to a petty squabble, and now you won’t even talk any more? Story bloody time! The stuff that seems bad now is the stuff you will tell stories about in the future.

I cannot stress this enough: Everything in your life gives you purpose somehow, even if it’s something terrible. It is up to you to decide exactly which stories to tell — but your responsibility lies first in getting the stories to happen so that you can tell them. Every story needs conflict, needs adverse contact with some negative force. That way, when the good bits are there, you really know that they are the good bits because they compare to the other bits of your story and give it perspective.

It’s all about perspective.

See your life through your own eyes.

If you let someone else tell you your life is terrible, then you might as well believe them. Never, ever take that from another living being. Your life belongs to you, so you get to decide whether it’s good or not. You may not always get the exact things you are looking for when you come to the temple, but the temple welcomes you anyway, and you cannot deny its hospitality.

Of course, negative things happen. Of course, they are terrible and dreadful. But, maybe, those negative experiences are the real link between the happy and the sad.

Featured photo credit: bryan… via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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